"In order to better understand the most useful approach to the unmarried mother, it is necessary to be reminded of
several simple facts regarding such unfortunate human beings. All unmarried mothers are not delinquents, and certainly not
libertines. How often that are looked upon as a lower order of human being, as animals who live by their instincts!"
"Nothing is further from the truth, and it is essential that the whole community be made aware of the real problem of these
girls and made to realise that they are just human beings like themselves."
The Church and the Unmarried Mother
by a Psychiatrist
Presbyterian Church N.S.W.
Queen Victoria Hospital
for Women and Babies
as part of hospital staff meeting late 1960's
The Adoption Process - Step 1.
The Hospital Almoner - Crown Street
Although this procedure was routine in most hospitals by varying degrees, the example I will use to outline
the confinement process adopted by the most highly respected and the major obstetric teaching hospital in New South Wales,
namely The Women’s Hospital Crown Street Sydney. This hospital was alone responsible for separating between 40,000 and
50,000 babies from their mothers at birth, which amounted to almost half of all adoption placements in the state.
Although these practices were instigated by the Department of Child Welfare, they could only be implemented by colluding
with hospital Registrars employed by the then Health Commission of New South Wales.
Keeping in mind that an unmarried mother under British law remains the sole legal guardian of her child until an Adoption
Order is made through the Supreme court and later reduced, with the introduction of the Adoption of Children Act 1965 to the
time at which a consent to adoption is signed, and keeping in mind that under the Adoption of Children Act 1965 legislation
had introduced protection clauses into the Act outlawing independent baby trading racketeers, to protect the unmarried mother
and her child from coercion, duress, or undue influence in encouraging her to part with her child: although slight variations
between hospitals occurred, the overall practices introduced into the treatment of unwed mothers followed a routine procedure
commencing with the initial ante-natal visit, where the young mother at varying degrees of pregnancy would be directed to
the hospital almoner's office (renamed social workers in 1969), where an evaluation of her marital status was conducted, whereupon
automatic counselling toward the promotion of adoption was assumed. Neither warnings against, nor alternatives to adoption
were being offered, and any discussion of keeping the baby was actively discouraged.
The mother would then be booked into either to an unmarried mothers home, waiting patients, attached to a hospital, or
farmed out as cheap labour to private houses as hired help.
The charitable homes
Charitable institutions, hospitals, and Tresillian homes used heavily pregnant girls as free labour to save themselves
the cost of paying wages to experienced staff. The young mothers got no respite, and were made to work six days a week until
the day they went into labour. Although the mothers were entitled to financial benefits after six month they usually saw none
of it. Except for perhaps $1.00 for bus fare to the obstetrician for their antenatal checkup.
These homes were double dipping. Not only were they being provided with free labour in their laundries, kitchens to run
their establishments, in return for a lousy bed and food, they were also pocketing the benefits belonging to the pregnant
If they were allowed on outings their bags would be searched for contraband, ie, lollies, which would be confiscated from
the girls by the staff.
Up at dawn, the mothers would provide the labour in laundries, serve hospital staff, scrub and polish floors with huge
uncontrollable machines that had their own minds, putting the mother at risk of miscarrying, knit and crochet doilies etc
to be sold at fetes to raise money for churches and hospitals, and every other menial task that could be found for them.
Much the same as the unmarried mothers home but differs in that the pregnant mother can at any time be sequestered by the
medical staff to be used as a specimen for teaching purposes.
Mothers who had no indication of being in labour would be called up to get ready for deliver, where the labour would be
induced anything up to two weeks before due date of delivery simply because interns needed to clock up a certain number of
inductions or episiotomies in training, and teaching had to coincide with doctors schedules. Frightened young teenagers already
traumatised, would be called up from their room, made to strip in front of up to ten interns and doctors, where their bodies
would be prodded and poked, their nipples squeezed to show the formation of the areola at certain stages of pregnancy. They
would never be spoken to, nor would anyone look at their faces. As one woman explained:
"I was like a piece of meat being molested by the medicos"
The third alternative was to obtain employment through the hospital almoner. The unmarried mother would be paid $2.00 per
week plus room and board in the early 1960's increasing to $10.00 per week by the mid and late 1960's. For this payment she
would be expected to do the entire household duties, look after the employers children, cook, serve when required, beginning
early morning and not stopping until after seven at night. While not all private homes exploited the young mothers or expected
too much from them above basic duties, many were pushed like slaves, belittled in front of company, berated for shoddy jobs
done, sent back and replaced if found to be too young to be competent. Many girls found themselves having to remain hyper-vigilent
by the constant risk of molestation from the husband of the household, spending their time warding off drunken advances and
molestation whenever the wife turned her back.
The Labour Ward - A living death
In the larger hospitals the birth would occur in front of as many as forty onlookers cramming to watch the delivery. Unmarried
mothers were not offered any anti-natal instruction on what to expect during labour even if they had been attending the largest
and most respected obstetric hospitals in the state. Every procedure was designed to punish.
They were never informed of the birthing procedures, or that they would be forbidden to see their baby's at birth. Nor
were they informed of the medication they were to receive nor were they given their right to decline the medication or procedure.
Uninformed and ill prepared, every aspect of the process would put them into a deeper state of delirium and trauma.
After preparation mothers would be given heavy levels of sedation known as lytic cocktails, designed to obliterate feelings.
The cocktails consisted of psychotropic barbiturates in a combination of any of the following: Chloral Hydrate, Doriden, Pethidine,
sparine, largactyl, morphine, heroin, Pentabarbital, Sodium Amytil, Lithium, codeine.
Less than animals
Many if not most mother have little if any memory of the birthing process. For many they not only stole their baby's but
also stole their only experience of giving birth. Millions of taxpayers dollars on the other hand, are spent on perfecting
procedures to enable infertile women the opportunity of experiencing childbirth which is considered to be the natural right
of every female human being. The medical profession involved in the adoption process saw unmarried mothers as being lower
than human beings and no better than animals. It wasn't enough that they stole the babies, by annihilating the essence of
a woman treating mothers like they were having abortion, for many mothers they had to steal their only memory and experience
of giving life, of procreation. Irrespective of future counselling, there is no recovery from the experience of such a birth
and of not having ever one's own flesh and blood at birth.
While the mother was in stirrups often shackled to the bed by the wrists (see 1971 4 Corners promotional video submitted)
with either bandages, or leather straps connected to chains attached to the bedhead, a pillow or sheet would be placed on
her chest in front of her face to prevent her from seeing her baby at birth. Other tactics were to turn her head away, dim
the lights, stand in her path of view, or blindfold her until the baby had been removed from the labour ward and hidden somewhere
in the hospital.
The cruelty of many nursing staff was unconscionable. Mothers in labour were often slapped, scoffed at, called sluts, ignored,
left to suffer for longer than necessary through staff negligence (as just punishment) given no kind word of encouragement.
Procedure at The Women's hospital Crown Street was to top up the already heavily sedated mothers with a routine dose of
200mgms of Sodium Pentobarbitone to knock her out. She would come to some time later and find herself in another hospital
entirely. This was usually Lady Wakehurst in Birrell Street Waverley, or Cannonbury if she had been a private patient. Her
baby had remaining at Crown Street.
This transfer was done without her consent or knowledge and without letting her parents know she had been removed from
Crown Street. So heavily sedated were the mothers that many did not even know they had been transferred by ambulance until
they received their medical records decades alter under FOI. The routine sedation would be to continue `as required' during
the rest of their five or six day confinement, dependent on the level of anxiety the mother was in. Pentobarb which remains
in the system for up to 56 hours with a half life of 29 hours would be administered nightly, topped up with largactyl or regular
doses of Chloral hydrate throughout the day in a pink syrup `as required'.
It was common for interns to be used to practice their sewing skills on the episiotomy cut, some just let mothers rip.
Commonly fallen women have been sewn up in such a way that brands them forever as scarlet women. So butchered were some that
the pain of scar tissue would prevent them from having normal, if any sex again.
Because of the level of trauma and scarring, and unable to trust another doctor again, or any other human being, the women,
many of whom were little more than children at the time, have been unable to and unwilling ask for help or to have any further
relationships including pap tests. As the phone support facilitator for Origins these women have shared their secret with
me using their first names, but refuse to come to meetings. It has been estimated that as many as 60% of surrendering mothers
never conceived again. Whether it was caused by secondary infertility, fear of pregnancy, or physical damage has not been
known. Perhaps it never will.
Because of the lack of anti-natal instruction provided by hospital staff to help the mother cope with labour, along with
being so heavily drugged that they had no control over their bodily function needing to push the baby out, many mothers were
ripped and torn to shreds inside and out. A just punishment for the sins of wicked young girls.
Perceptions were also that unmarried mothers were only charitable cases any way and deserved no real attention, but that
perception was not necessarily true, as many mothers who had been minors, were covered by their parents HCF private insurance.
Post Partum Period
A conflict of Interest
Policy then dictated that at some time after the birth, although she had still been forbidden to see her child, a mother
would be visited by a social worker, while she remained conveniently traumatised and sedated, and if it was then indicated
that the baby (she had been forbidden to see or to bond with), was to be adopted, an unknown district officer from the Department
of Child Welfare would then be called upon to take the mothers consent.
The consent taker, unknown to the mother, was usually the allotment officer working on behalf of the potential adopters.
No mother was asked if she would like to keep her baby as adoption was automatically assumed.
This intolerable conflict of interest meant that if the consent wasn't signed her client wouldn't get the baby that has
often been earmarked for them prior to birth.
Such shocking conflict of interest was made even more so as quite a substantial number of district officers/allotment officers,
social workers, and others working in the adoption field were themselves adoptive parents - giving a fair indication of the
no win situation the unmarried mother was in as a result if serving nature permeating the field of adoption.
According to the medical records of The Women’s Hospital Crown Street, the unmarried mothers chart would be marked
with the term `socially cleared' upon having signed a consent, or, `awaiting social clearance' prior to a consent being taken.
This term was an indication that the consent had been signed, the mother was socially cleared, and was then free to legally
leave the hospital and resume her place in society.
If a mother attempted to discharge herself from hospital prior to being officially socially cleared, she would be threatened
with police arrest for abandoning her baby, although she could not legally be charged with abandonment unless she had had
no contact with her child for a period of twelve months.
If she refused to sign, as many did, her baby would be taken to institutions like Scarba House where the baby would be
kept until the mother could be harassed into signing, or until the twelve months were up and her consent dispensed with anyway.
That the baby was suffering from maternal deprivation was of little concern. The Mother was not going to get her child at
Being strictly the social workers' domain, hospital staff were forbidden to have social interaction with the unmarried
mother or discuss adoption matters lest it confuses her and interferes with the process at hand. Nurses would be threatened
with de-registration if caught showing the mother her baby.
Copyright © Dian Wellfare, Origins Inc, 1995